If you’re ever trying to find something to study in the Word, one neat thing you might try is reading the great prayers of the Bible. Think Genesis 18:16-33 for Sodom and Gomorrah, 1 Samuel 1:10-16 for a child, Jonah 2 in the belly of the great fish, and of course,Matthew 6:9-13, which Jesus himself taught his disciples. I’ve found these teach us more than just how to pray. Through these prayers we learn what it means to be people of faith. We also see God’s character revealed to us and learn why prayer is important to God.
Daniel 9 contains one of these great prayers: Daniel’s prayer to God on behalf of the Israelites. In the first few verses, Daniel tells us that after reading the writings of the prophet Jeremiah he understood that the exile-- which he had been apart of for most of his life-- was nearing an end. We might expect Daniel to celebrate, but instead he says, “I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting and in sackcloth and ashes” (Daniel 9:3).
What in the world is going on here? If Daniel truly believed God’s promise to end the exile, why is he praying as if he didn’t? When I thought through this, I realized Daniel didn’t doubt God would deliver on his promise. Rather, he understood that prayer is an expression of faith in the promises of God. It also helps us align our hearts to God’s will and purpose in the world. Daniel was essentially saying, “God, this is awesome news. I want this so badly. Don’t let our sinfulness keep you from acting on this great plan. Don’t delay, rescue us soon!”
We too have been promised an end to our own exile of sorts- Jesus promises to return and bring his Kingdom with him when he comes. He promises the end of our captivity to sin and to bring us into ever-lasting life in the New Jerusalem, in his presence forever!
This is an incredible promise. But are we praying for it the way Daniel was praying for Israel’s return from exile? We pray “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done,” but do we really mean it? I know I often don’t. I’m usually content in this broken world, in captivity. I’m comfortable here; I’m used to it. I don’t often long for the Jesus to come back.
But God desires us to be like Daniel, to remember our sinfulness, confess and to pray that Jesus would indeed come back soon. God’s promises are intended to encourage us to pray, not to make us shrug our shoulders and say, ‘Oh well, it’ll happen one day, regardless of if I pray or not.”
We need to pray as Daniel did, not because God needs our prayers to accomplish his purposes, but because we need to submit ourselves to his plans. We need to long for what he longs for, and for Christians today, the number one thing on our prayer list, our number one longing, should be the return of Jesus.
Intersecting Faith and Life:
God has promised us that he is coming back to claim this world as his own and to rescue all those who have placed their faith in him. Are you living in light of this promise? If not, meditate on scripture that affirms Jesus’ return, and pray your heart would desire this as much as God does.
John 14: 1-4
Revelation 21: 1-5
Revelation 22: 7
Image from Wikipedia.